Skip to content

A Burner Lexicon

Posted in A Burner Lexicon, and Burning Man

The Burning Man Effigy. Black Rock City, 2004. Image by Kit O’Connell.

A Burner Lexicon, formerly published on DefyAuthority.NET, is moving to Approximately 8,000 Words. Starting today, and continuing on a regular basis, these entries will define the unique words, slang, and  jargon of the Burning Man community. Nothing can truly prepare a new arrival for their first time on the playa, or explain to an outsider what a Burn is really like, but perhaps this glossary of terms will mitigate the confusion a little.

In Lexicon entries, BOLD words are words which are defined in that particular entry. Words in italic are the subject of other lexicon entries, current or future. Words which are not defined in the lexicon but can be found elsewhere will appear as a normal link.

Today’s entry is the word at the heart of this whole project…

Burner, –Noun, A Burner is someone who is part of the Burning Man subculture. Originally this meant someone who had attended That Thing in the Desert, the original Burn now held in the Black Rock Desert. However, as attendees returned to their homes in other parts of the world they began to create Regional Burns. Nowadays, most anyone who has attended one of these events based on some version of the Burner Principles, and where an effigy is ritually built and destroyed, is considered a Burner.

A typical Burner can be recognized by the glazed expression in their eyes even when sober (if they can be ever said to be truly sober), the display of outré fashion statements that range from 80’s glam to Mad-Max-in-a-fun-fur-factory, and their tendency to ask you what kind of art you make within moments of meeting. You do make some kind of art, right?

Compare with: Participant, Tourist, and Yahoo.

Although the Burnier-than-thou may scoff as we welcome more and more freaks into this umbrella definition, the term might be expanded to include those who have attended such events as San Francisco Decompression or even the thousands of people who attended the 2009 Resolution Clock Burn in downtown Austin, TX.

Be sure to check out the previous lexicon entries, Orphan, Regional, and Shirt-cocking. Suggestions for future entries are always welcome.

You can always access the Lexicon at

If you enjoyed this post, please support Kit on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!